Union Law Minister Kiren Rijiju on Thursday told Parliament that the government has received various representations on the lack of transparency, objectivity and social diversity in the Collegium system of appointment of Supreme Court and High Court judges.
The minister was responding to a question by Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP John Brittas on whether the National Judicial Appointments Commission is required for the purpose of appointment of judges in higher judiciary.
In his reply, Rijiju said that that the Centre had introduced the National Judicial Appointments Commission Act in 2014 with an objective to make appointments to the Supreme Court and High Courts “more broad-based, transparent, accountable and bringing objectivity in the system”.
However, the law was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 making the Collegium system the norm for judicial appointments, he said.
“Representations from diverse sources on lack of transparency, objectivity and social diversity in the collegium system of appointment of judges to the Constitutional Courts are received from time to time with the request to improve this system of appointment of judges,” the law minister added.
The National Judicial Appointments Commission had proposed to make judicial appointments through a body comprising of the chief justice, two senior Supreme Court judges, the law minister and two other eminent persons nominated by the chief justice, the prime minister and the leader of the Opposition.
The proposed law was to replace the collegium system, under which five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice, decide on the appointments and transfers of judges to the top court and the High Courts.
Rijiju’s remarks in Parliament came amid a tussle between the government and the judiciary on the process of making judicial appointments in the country. The law minister himself has repeatedly criticised the existing collegium system of appointments.
On its part, the Supreme Court has backed the Collegium system, calling it the “law of land”.
Meanwhile, at Thursday’s proceedings in the Rajya Sabha, Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, who is the chairperson of the Upper House, took exception to Congress leader’s Sonia Gandhi’s recent comments about the the government’s relationship with the judiciary.
“I would urge and expect leaders across the political spectrum to bear in mind not to subject high constitutional offices to partisan stances,” Dhankhar said, according to The Indian Express.
On Wednesday, Gandhi had alleged that the Centre was attempting to delegitimise the judiciary.
“Ministers, and even a high constitutional authority, have been enlisted to make speeches attacking the judiciary on various grounds,” Gandhi had said while addressing the Congress Parliamentary Party. “It is quite clear that this is not an effort to provide reasonable suggestions for improvement. Rather, it is an effort to reduce the standing of the judiciary in the eyes of the public.”